4 important int’l issues Jokowi failed to discuss

Natashya Gutierrez

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4 important int’l issues Jokowi failed to discuss


Here are 4 issues that President Joko Widodo avoided discussing in his State of the Nation address, despite the fact that they have put Indonesia under the international spotlight.

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo delivered his 24-page State of the Nation speech on Tuesday, July 16, a day before Indonesia celebrates its 71st anniversary of independence.

In his speech, Jokowi said that despite 71 years of independence, there is still a need to alleviate poverty, and decrease unemployment and inequality. The president said he would achieve these developments in 3 steps: acceleration of infrastructure development; preparation of productive capacity and human resources; and regulation and de-bureaucratization.

The economy-heavy address discussed a wide range of topics from legal reform to budget management to foreign policy to political stability, but the president failed to mention some important issues that have put Indonesia under the international spotlight.

The president’s decision to leave these issues out is especially disappointing considering his campaign promises in 2014 to address historic rights abuses.

Here are 5 issues that Jokowi avoided discussing in his address:

1. Papua human rights issues

PROTEST HALTED. Papuan pro-independence activists, some in traditional tribal garb, march during a rally in Jayapura. AFP PHOTO

In May, a shadow human rights fact-finding mission in West Papua released its report, revealing various human rights abuses that has spanned decades.

“Many spoke of a slow motion genocide,” said the report.

The report also pointed out that on May 2015, Jokowi said journalists would have free access to West Papua but media access is still currently restricted.

In addition, almost 40 political prisoners are currently in jail.

The president noticeably left Papua out in his speech this year. In his 2015 speech, Jokowi said riots “should not happen again in the future,” and that maintaining peace there is a priority.

However this year, in the wake of reported abuses on Papuan students in Yogyakarta, Jokowi was quiet on the issue.

2. Executions of drug convicts

EXECUTED. Indonesian police officers stand guard as an ambulance carrying the body of an executed prisoner Humprey Ejike of Nigeria leaves the port of Nusa Kambangan prison island, in Cilacap. EPA

Jokowi has been adamant about his government’s war on drugs, adding that the death penalty for drug convicts is necessary to resolve the country’s supposed drug crisis – a statement that has been questioned by analysts who say that Indonesia does not suffer from such.

Just last month, the government put to death 4 drug convicts in Nusakambangan prison island – bringing the total count killed to 18 under Jokowi’s administration. But Jokowi was surprisingly mum on the topic in his speech.

There has been international and local outcry on the government’s approach, seeing that international law prohibits the death penalty for drug-related offenses.

Within Indonesia, aside from human rights groups, former president BJ Habibie also wrote a letter to Jokowi, suggesting he rethink the law.

In his speech, Jokowi said that “in law enforcement, we will focus on combating drug trafficking,” but he did not mention the executions that have gained Indonesia international notoriety.

3. The 1965 genocide

PROSECUTOR DEMANDS. Parulian Uli Sihombing (right) reads out the demands of the IPT Prosecutor in the trial held in the Netherlands. Photo by Theo Rika / Rappler

In July, the Hague-based International People’s Tribunal (IPT) concluded that Indonesia is responsible for human rights violations and the killing of at least 500,000 people that happened between 1965-1966.

The tribunal also charged the state of Indonesia with 10 gross human rights violation including mass killing, destruction, imprisonment, slavery, torture, forced disappearance, sexual violence, banishment, false propaganda, international complicity and genocide.

The IPT also proposed recommendations to the Indonesian government for further steps including apologizing to all of the victims and families in relation to the 1965 incidents and ensuring a thorough investigation.

It also pressed the government to compensate the victims and prosecute all crimes against humanity.

After the decision, the Indonesian government shunned the decision saying it would settle the issue “in our way and through universal values.”

As Jokowi was silent then, he remained silent about the issue in his speech.

4. Persecution of minorities

PERSECUTION. A military soldier watches ex-Gafatar settlements being burned down in West Kalimantan. ANTARA / Jessica Helena Wuysang

Discrimination against minorities remains rampant in Indonesia, an issue that Jokowi has again decided not to include in his address.

Among them is the persecution of religious minorities like members of the mysterious Light of Nusantara Movement – or Gafatar – who were moved in January from a remote communal farm in Indonesia’s half of Borneo island after a mob attack torched their village base in Kalimantan. The attack displaced roughly 500 families.

Several local rights groups, including the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute and the Setara Institute, have criticized the treatment of Gafatar calling it “religious persecution.” They also claimed that the re-education program imposed on Gafatar members about Islam and civic duties “is simply an abuse of human rights.”

Meanwhile a community of Ahmadis – a minority Muslim sect – living in Indonesia’s west has also been ordered to convert to mainstream Sunni Islam or face expulsion, Human Rights Watch said.

Aside from religious minorities, another group that has faced significant discrimination in the past year is the LGBT community – an issue that the President continues to be mum about.

The small gay community in conservative, Muslim-majority Indonesia is facing a sudden and unexpected backlash, with ministers and religious leaders denouncing homosexuality, LGBT websites blocked and emboldened hardliners launching anti-gay raids.

Most recently, presidential spokesman Johan Budi said “there is no room in Indonesia for the proliferation of the LGBT movement.”

The comment triggered a reaction from the United States which said, “we encourage Indonesia, which rightly prides itself on diversity and tolerance, to respect and uphold international rights and standards by ensuring equal rights and protections for all of its citizens.”

Yet Jokowi left any discussion on these minorities out of his speech. – Rappler.com/with reports from Agence France-Presse

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.